How the Distinction between "Irreversible" and "Permanent" Illuminates Circulatory-Respiratory Death Determination

J. L. Bernat
2010 Journal of Medicine and Philosophy  
The distinction between the "permanent" (will not reverse) and "irreversible" (cannot reverse) cessation of functions is critical to understand the meaning of a determination of death using circulatory-respiratory tests. Physicians determining death test only for the permanent cessation of circulation and respiration because they know that irreversible cessation follows rapidly and inevitably once circulation no longer will restore itself spontaneously and will not be restored medically.
more » ... d medically. Although most statutes of death stipulate irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, the accepted medical standard is their permanent cessation because permanence is a perfect surrogate indicator for irreversibility, and using it permits a more timely declaration. Therefore, patients properly declared dead in donation after circulatory death (DCD) protocols satisfy the requirements of death statutes and do not violate the dead donor rule. The acronym DCD should represent organ "donation after circulatory death" to clarify that the death standard is the permanent cessation of circulation, not heartbeat. Heart donation in DCD does not retroactively negate the donor's death determination because circulation has ceased permanently.
doi:10.1093/jmp/jhq018 pmid:20439357 fatcat:shsoj2x3lbfqlgzyqgwe5teune